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Unit 4: Starting and finishing emails

How should you begin and finish an email message to someone you don't know? Find out here!

Starting and finishing emails

Here are some important points to consider when starting and finishing an email.

Formal or informal?

We write a formal email when we want to be polite, or when we do not know the reader very well. A lot of work emails are formal. We write informal emails when we want to be friendly, or when we know the reader well. A lot of social emails are informal. Here are some examples of formal and informal messages:

Formal Informal
An email to a customer 
A job application
An email to your manager
A complaint to a shop
An email from one company to another company

A birthday greeting to a colleague
An email to a colleague who is also a good friend
A social invitation to a friend at your workplace
An email with a link to a funny YouTube clip
A message to a friend on a social networking site

Before you start writing an email, decide if you want to write a formal email or an informal one.

Layout and punctuation

Starting an email: We normally write a comma after the opening phrase. We start a new line after the name of the person we’re writing to.

Finishing an email: We normally write a comma after the closing phrase. We start a new line to write our name at the end.

Formal Informal

Dear Mr Piper,
I am writing to thank you for all your help.
I look forward to seeing you next week.
With best wishes,
John Smith

Hi Tim,
Many thanks for your help.
See you next week.

Phrases for starting and finishing

Here are some phrases which we use for starting and finishing emails. We use these in formal and informal emails:

Starting phrases Dear Tim,
Good morning Tim,
Ending phrases Regards,
With best wishes,
With many thanks and best wishes,

You also need to know which phrases to use only in a formal email or an informal one:

  Formal Informal
Starting phrases Dear Mr Piper,
Dear Sir or Madam,
Hi Tim,
Hi there Tim,
Morning/Afternoon/Evening Tim,
Hello again Tim,
Ending phrases Yours sincerely,
Yours faithfully,
Yours truly,
Bye for now,
See you soon,



Language level

Intermediate: B1
Pre-intermediate: A2


Dear LearningEnglish Team

You wrote "We normally write a comma after the opening phrase" .... I learned it the other way round. So I write no comma after both, starting and ending phrase. Am I doing right though?


Hello _SENDavid_,

That sounds fine. As it says above, we use commas after the opening phrase ("Dear Joe,") and after the closing phrase ("Best Regards,").



The LearnEnglish Team

I got a good teaching for my result I had already done.

Dear team members,

Let me express my gratitude to all members of your team for presenting such useful task, it really helps to develop language skills.

Kindest regards,

I am working in an international organization in Nepal. I am responsible for official mail frequently. It is very useful to me.

Dear Mr. Peter M,

Many thanks for your great advice !

Best regards,

Our company is steel manufacturer, a formal writing is recommended. Supposed that Tim Cook is my manager, "Dear Mr. Tim" or "Dear Mr. Tim Cook" are accepted. How about "Dear Tim", is it consider as impolite ?

Hello Adam Smith,

Again, it depends on your company and on what is normal. If you've met the manager and are already on first name terms then 'Dear Tim' should be fine. If you haven't met the manager, or if you call him 'Sir' or 'Mr. Cook' when you speak to him, then the first name greeting would not be appropriate.

If you're not sure, then it's probably better to err on the side of being more formal.



The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Mr. Peter M,

Many thanks for your advice !

I understand that, for email starting:
- Formal writing: Dear Mr. Tim Cook, Dear Mr. Tim
- Informal writing: Dear Tim, Hi Tim

Using formal or informal style shall base on company culture. Some company, especially those in creative industries (advertisment, sofeware, education ...) may encourage the informal style, while other companies shall require the formal style

If we are not sure, it's recommended to use the formal style, or seek for the advice from direct manager

For the instructions in Unit 4:
"Here are some phrases which we use for starting and finishing emails. We use these in formal and informal emails:

* Starting phrases:
Dear Tim,
Good morning Tim,

* Ending phrases:
With best wishes,
With many thanks and best wishes,"

I found:
- Starting phrases, only examples of informal ones
- Ending phrase, examples are for formal style
This caused confusion, thus I need to ask more details. If possible, please consider to mention clearly, what examples are for firmal or informal style. It's better for understanding and implementation

I am very happy to know this wonderful website, and highly appreciate for your great support to community !

With my best regards,
Adam Smith

Hello Adam Smith,

We never use the first name with 'Mr.' or 'Mrs.', so 'Mr. Tim' is incorrect.

The reason you are finding so many different examples is that this really does depend on the particular company you are working for. What is appropriate in one company may not be appropriate in another.

My most general advice is this:

If you don't know your boss and have not spoken to him before, or if you have only addressed him as 'Mr. Cook', then a formal style is safest:

Dear Mr. Cook,


Yours Sincerely,

If you have spoken with your boss before and addressed them by their first name, then a less formal style is better:

Dear Tim,


Regards / Best Regards,

If you have a relaxed relationship with your boss, and if company culture allows it, then a very informal style is possible:

Hi Tim,


Best / All the best / Yours,



The LearnEnglish Team